Pak delays visas to Indian docs visiting Indian inmates

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Twenty-seven mentally unstable Indian prisoners languishing in Pakistani jails are yet to be brought back home as Imran Khan's government in Islamabad is dilly-dallying on issuing visas to the psychiatrists New Delhi wants to send to the neighbouring country to meet them.

The applications seeking visas for the psychiatrists were sent to the High Commission of Pakistan in New Delhi several months ago. But Pakistan Government has not yet issued the travel documents.

Uncertainty now looms large, not only over the proposed visit of the psychiatrists, but also on the fate of the 27 mentally unstable prisoners, who are believed to be citizens of India, but languishing in the jails of the neighbouring country, sources told DH in New Delhi. Pakistan had agreed on March 7 last year to allow them to visit its jails.

India on Monday asked Pakistan to “expedite grant of visas to the members of the medical experts team, proposed to visit Pakistan to assess the mental condition of believed-to-be Indian prisoners of unsound mind, lodged in different jails of Pakistan”, a spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said in New Delhi.

New Delhi is keen to send a team of psychiatrists and other medical experts to “assess the mental health of the 27 prisoners” and start the process of verifying their nationality and subsequent repatriation to India.

New Delhi and Islamabad on Monday exchanged the lists of Pakistani and Indian civilian prisoners and fishermen held in each other's jails. The lists were exchanged through diplomatic channels both in New Delhi and Islamabad in keeping with the provisions of a 2008 bilateral agreement.

The agreement requires India and Pakistan to exchange twice a year a list of each other's nationals held in each other's prisons – on January 1 and July 1 every year.

New Delhi exchanged with Islamabad lists of 256 Pakistani civilian prisoners and 99 fishermen in India's custody. Pakistan also shared lists of 209 fishermen and 52 prisoners in its custody, who are Indians or believed-to-be Indians.

India has called for early release and repatriation of civilian prisoners, missing Indian defence personnel and fishermen along with their boats, the Ministry of External Affairs stated in a press release. “In this context, Pakistan was asked to expedite the release and repatriation of 10 Indian civil prisoners and 124 Indian fishermen to India whose nationality has been confirmed.”

New Delhi also asked Islamabad to organise an early visit of the Joint Judicial Committee to Pakistan and organise an early visit of the four-member team to Karachi in connection with release and repatriation of 22 Indian fishing boats. Immediate consular access has also been sought for the remaining prisoners and fishermen with the request to facilitate their earliest release and repatriation, said the official spokesperson of the MEA.

“India remains committed to addressing, on priority, all humanitarian matters, including those pertaining to prisoners and fishermen in each other's country,” he said. “In this context,” he added, “India has also asked Pakistan to expedite its response in the case of 88 Pakistan prisoners, including fishermen, who have completed their sentences and await repatriation for want of nationality confirmation by Pakistan.”

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